NFL franchises aren’t commonly featured in Hollywood movies, but the Philadelphia Eagles have gotten more exposure on the big screen than almost all of their opponents. From Invincible to Silver Linings Playbook and even that bizarrely phrased Tony Danze movie The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon, Philadelphia fans have gotten more than 15 minutes of fame.
What is the best major Hollywood movie to represent the Eagles? Philly Sports Network will make a case for both Invincible and Silver Linings Playbook. Let your voice be heard on our Twitter poll.
Invincible: The Good
Disney’s film Invincible is the most easily associated movie with the Eagles. It tells the story of Vince Papale, a local underdog who overcame the odds to play his first NFL game at the age of 30. Mainstream actor Mark Wahlberg brought the movie tremendous exposure when it was released in 2006.
Invincible portrays Philadelphia in the mid-1970s as an economically struggling city whose residents look to the Eagles as a guiding light during tough times. Papale’s underdog mantra develops when he is let go from his job as a teacher and abandoned by his wife. His fearless attitude of perseverance through adversity on and off the football field personifies the city of Philadelphia well within the film’s historical context, regardless of how much the cliché has been met with skepticism in modern times.
Greg Kinnear puts on a tremendous performance as former Eagles head coach and recently elected Hall of Famer Dick Vermeil. While the film was about Papale, Vermeil’s role as a supporting character helped establish the film’s authenticity.
When the older generation of Eagles fans thinks back to the 1970s, they remember mostly dismal teams falling at the feet of the superior Dallas Cowboys. They look at Philadelphia’s victory over Dallas in the NFC Championship Game after the 1980 season as the reward for years of withstanding failure.
A portrayal of Vermeil’s shaky first season as head coach invokes a feeling of pride for what it took for him to bring a traditionally underperforming franchise to the game’s biggest stage in Super Bowl XV.
Some good local references can be found throughout the movie. Tony Luke provides comic relief by playing an overmatched average joe with a cheesesteak in his hand before the tryout scene. He delivered well on his “two years, high school football, varsity!” one-liner that was later ripped off without proper credit on the news at an Eagles tailgate in 2019.
Lighthearted banter takes place throughout the movie between the Philadelphia-centric characters and Elizabeth Banks’ character, who is Papale’s love interest and coincidentally a New York Giants fan. Eagles fans still appreciate heckling Giants fans even during the Nick Sirianni era.
Invincible’s best music scene pays homage to local rock legend Jim Croce. Croce was born in South Philadelphia and attended Upper Darby High School in Delaware County.
Invincible: The Bad
Casting Wahlberg as a part-time bartender from South Philly in the shadow of Veterans Stadium might’ve played well in Hollywood, but the real Vince Papale grew up in Delaware County and attended Interboro High School.
While the Vet is presented well at certain points during the film, the bleacher seats visible in any scene inside the stadium don’t quite match up with the memories of the former beloved concrete clunker that Philadelphia used to call home.
Any sports narrative “based on a true story” is bound to have its fair share of overdramatized moments. The climax of the movie occurs when Papale jars the ball loose from a punt returner in opposing territory and recovers for the scoop and score. While he did force a key fumble early in his rookie season, he did not score on the play. The movie’s camera angles don’t exactly measure up to modern NFL replay standards, but the fumble wouldn’t have been eligible to advance if the returner didn’t possess it cleanly.
The Verdict: B-
Eagles fans should be happy their squad made it onto the big screen, even if it was in less than ideal fashion. Invincible isn’t exactly going to endear itself to Philadelphians as the movie they watch before every Eagles game, but it had enough local flavor to deserve a spot in the inner circle of its setting.
Fans should also be thrilled for Papale himself. The former NFL wide receiver overcame cancer after his playing career and became a successful motivational speaker. Exposure following the film significantly boosted the outreach of his work.
Does Invincible top Silver Linings Playbook in your mind?
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire